Revisting past pastures

Today I am wrapping up 12 days off from work although I only burned about 40 hours of vacation. That would be a week’s worth of vacation to most folks but because of my part-time status that is about one-third of two work weeks. Got it? I will still have about 17 days leave left after accounting for the current 40 hours. One thing I do not lack is time off — on the books. Taking that time off is a hoarse of a different cough.

Whenever I return to the town where I went to college I always refer to it as “returning to the scene of the crime.” It’s not that I committed a crime there — I plead the Fifth and a six-pack — it is just my quaint way of saying I have more memories than can fit in this aging mind of mine. Nacogdoches, Texas, is more than just the town where I attended and received my bachelor’s degree at the local Stephen F. Austin State University. After all, I lived there three separate times. The third time’s a charm says the old adage. I would think so but it is hard not feel a wistfulness for this town and the people I lived among.

These were not my neighbors but perhaps their offspring's offspring's offspring or something similar

The picture above is one is of where I once lived. I mean, I didn’t live out with the herd itself. I lived in a small house with its front yard essentially bordering the pasture. There was no fence separating the yard from the herd — the fence in the above photo spans the property line — and it wasn’t unusual to wake up and find cows huddled around your car. I’d get up and go shoo them away or if one of the two dogs I had when I lived there, also at two separate occasions, were around they would chase the cattle from the yard.

It really wasn’t a complicated arrangement.

The house had a really small front porch, par for the course since it was a rather small structure. But one couldn’t find a better place to sit on that shade-covered porch and watch a thunderstorm roll in from the south on a hot summer day. It was a great place to be even if you were alone. What is it about watching rain fall down that can make us feel, at least for a little while, that all is right with the world?

I noticed that nothing much has changed out at the farm since I left it. Oh several folks have lived there. The house hasn’t been occupied in awhile. A car, most likely needing work or scrapping, sits in the yard. The nearly 200 acres on which the house sits still provides hay and pasture land for a modest herd as was the case when I lived there in the middle 1980s. The same cannot be said for the area nearby.

Fewer than five houses were located in the mile-long stretch of oil-paved road from my house to the farm-to-market road which led to town when I lived there. That seems to have more than doubled. Folks are flocking to the countryside. While the city population of Nacogdoches has hovered around 30,000 people from the time I first moved there in the late 1970s to the present, the county population has grown by nearly 20,000, according to the latest Census estimates.

Time marches on and people move in search of something. Maybe it is solitude. Perhaps it is a shade tree. Or maybe it is a porch overlooking a pasture. Go find whatever you are looking for before it is gone.



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